Farfetch is about to make a big push in China with JD.com, which is investing $397 million in the London-based luxury platform.
The deal expands Farfetch’s business in China, which it launched more than two years ago, and gives JD a luxury boost and access to something it’s long coveted — a big roster of fashion brands.
JD and Farfetch said their partnership was aimed at opening the “ultimate gateway for bringing luxury brands to China,” a mammoth $80 billion market.
Farfetch founder and chief executive officer José Neves declined to delve into the nitty gritty of the transaction, but said the JD investment buys it a minority stake and that at least some of the incoming cash will be used to fuel the platform’s continued growth. (He’s been a busy dealmaker lately, having just acquired Style.com from Farfetch backer Condé Nast).
Neves has been eyeing a Farfetch public offering, but said this deal hasn’t changed the timing. “We just carry on and one day we will IPO, eventually,” he said.
As part of the deal, JD’s founder and ceo Richard Liu will join the Farfetch board.
Liu said: “We have always believed that the long-term trend of Chinese e-commerce is toward quality over price and this partnership with Farfetch further extends our lead in the battle for the future of China’s upwardly mobile consumers. We look forward to deepening our relationships with Farfetch and luxury brands in the months and years ahead.”
Neves added, “To me, this is like Jeff Bezos joining my board of directors” and noted that Liu has built a business that drove $94.8 billion in commerce last year, a 47 percent gain.
The comparison with Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, is apt, but incomplete. JD is an e-commerce powerhouse in China, but it also has a big credit business and owns a vast logistics network that can reach 600 million people with one-day shipping. The company’s largest shareholder is Tencent, the owner of social media giant WeChat, making for a powerful data brew that can be used to target customers very specifically.
“In the States, this would be the equivalent of Amazon having a strategic partnership with Facebook and Instagram,” Neves said. “That’s what they have in China, which is pretty mind-blowing.”
JD has 250 million active users and WeChat has 800 million, he noted. Farfetch works with 200 luxury brands and more than 500 multibrand retailers.
“We will be able to advertise and do marketing in a hyper-targeted way in China,” Neves said. “This makes it really, really appealing to us, add to that complete unrivaled logistics, it’s just a marriage made in heaven.”
The partnership, for instance, would help Farfetch market to a specific consumer just as they’re posting to WeChat in a way that suggests they’re looking to buy fashion.
“In China, unless you have good partnerships with these companies — it’s not trivial to put together,” Neves said of the targeted marketing capability.
China is already Farfetch’s second largest market and is set to grow more as the platform uses the partnership to expand and moves beyond its cross-border roots in the country and also starts to sell Chinese luxury brands to consumers there. Farfetch users in China will also gain access to JD Pay and JD’s microcredit channel Baitiao.
JD has been keen on growing its fashion business, having hosted fashion shows around the world and separated its fashion business into a new unit under the guidance of president Xia Ding.
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